OAKLAND -- The five-minute grace period parking program has a real chance of becoming a permanent policy after the city's Finance and Management Committee's recommendation to continue it.

Introduced by Councilmember Jane Brunner in December 2011, the pilot program has been in effect for about six months and, according to a staff report presented during the Tuesday meeting, has had a positive effect.

"I received a lot of complaints from people who were very frustrated that they were being given $68 tickets if they were a minute late," said Brunner in an interview, adding that the program is meant to strike a balance between parking enforcement and not discouraging business in the city.

The program is based around the two types of meters currently used throughout the city: pay-by-display meters and single-space meters that must be fed with coins. While the five-minute grace period can only be applied to the former, if the driver of a car parked at an old-fashioned meter comes back while an enforcement officer is writing a ticket, the citation will be voided. Unlike the new meters that issue a receipt to be displayed on a car's windshield, single-space meters do not show how much time has elapsed since expiration.

According to David McPherson, the city's revenue tax administrator, the grace period will result in a yearly revenue loss of $254,000, of which $210,000 alone will be from the single-space parking meters.


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"We're never sure if someone puts money in the machine," said McPherson at the meeting, who added that the implementation of new technology -- such as road sensors -- would allow the grace period to apply to all meters in the city and reduce revenue loss. McPherson also mentioned mobile payment applications and updating old meters.

The net revenue loss consists of the citation amount, as well as other associated fines and penalties, but does not include surcharges, which are about $13 each.

While Brunner, as well as other members of the committee, expressed concerns over revenue loss and enforcement errors, all agreed unanimously to continue it.

"I think it's worth the money," Brunner said. "I think it has calmed down the parking issue in the city and it brings a lot of good will."

Yet several members of the public who spoke at the meeting said they have reservations about the program.

Shari Godinez, a volunteer with the Oakland Merchant Leadership Forum, supports the program but is still concerned about "the over-aggressiveness and predatory ticketing that's still happening. Even though the five-minute grace period exists on paper, I have not experienced that it exists in the city of Oakland," she said.

But according to Councilmember Desley Brooks, a lack of education about parking policies is also in play.

"People forget that if you don't put enough money in the meter, then something's going to happen on the back end," she said.

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